Nirvana Pudding

One of the things about zazen that never fails to amaze me is how interesting thoughts – and solutions – can arise when the mind stays open. A natural disposition ready for that ureka! moment. So this morning at Zen River, rather than making rice gruel for breakfast a colourful thought popped up saying how nice it would be to turn it into something like the Spanish dessert Arroz Con Leche;  a lovely creamy rice pudding infused with cinnamon and lemon zest. Even though we had never done it before, the plan was born and happen it did.

Of course this rice dish is not trying to be Arroz con Leche, as it would be way to rich for breakfast so don’t expect as much! But the time it spends in the oven turns it into something quite “nirvana-ly”. Perhaps I should give it a different name altogether; Nirvana Pudding?!

Anyway, as Spring seems to have gotten lost in today’s weather, it was very comforting to have a hot, baked dish served for breakfast, which showed on the smiles walking by the kitchen after breakfast.


260 g (1¼ cups) sushi or arborio rice (or other short grain white rice)
1 litre (4 cups) milk, any kind
600 ml (2½ cups) water
55 g (¼ cup) sugar
2 x 5 cm (2″) cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon lemon zest 
Little butter or coconut oil
Sugar for sprinkling


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
  • Put the milk, water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks into a pan and bring to a boil over a medium flame being careful not to let it boil over.
  • While the milk and water are heating up, rinse the rice in fresh water and drain.
  • When the milk and water comes to a boil, stir in the rice, lemon zest, and salt.
  • Keep stirring as you return the rice and milk to a gentle simmer. Then turn the flame low, cover loosely and simmer for a further 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the milk starts to thicken. Stir occasionally to prevent burning and watch it doesn’t boil over.
  • Grease the sides of an oven-proof dish with some butter or coconut oil.
  • Pour in the rice and milk, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Bake in the oven until it begins to brown on top, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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